Monday, February 13, 2017

Singletrack Dreams

Just shy of a month ago I wrote about a particularly enjoyable ride in the Gorge.  This time I’m prepared to go into more detail about why I was out on the ridge west of the Frenchburg Job Corps and what this means going forward.

Back in January I had a long phone conversation with the new District Ranger for the Cumberland.  He asked if I had ever ridden the ridge west of the Job Corps and I had to admit that I had not.  I wasn’t even aware there was a doubletrack road on that ridge.  He encouraged me to go check it out and that resulted in a very fine Misty Mountain Bike Hop.

Friday he and I had a chance to catch up again.  After riding FR 173 and the user created trails on the east and west sides of KY 77 at the top of the hill I mapped out a conceptual trail system using the existing trails, the road, and then connecting it all up following roughly the 1,220’ contour.  What I discovered was the potential for twenty miles of trails.  Twenty miles of trails.  What I proposed to the District Ranger was a self-contained area to be a hike/bike network.  He said he really liked the idea and gave me a lot of good advice on how to see this forward.  In the end the crux is going to be money.  So I’m going to need to go begging from rich mountain bikers and mountain bike companies.

All that said, I had planned to go for a long road ride Saturday morning, but the wind was whipping and I didn’t relish the idea of fighting a headwind on rubbery flabulous legs.  I flip flopped but then decided I would take the ol’ new mountain bike for a spin up Tarr Ridge.  It took me a mere twenty-five minutes from home to reach the parking area at the top of KY 77 and in short order I was off for the Job Corps.

FR 173 is great!  You have to boldly ride past numerous “Authorized Personnel Only” and “No Trespassing” signs to get through the Job Corps, but the District Ranger assured me that the public has a right to access through the facility to the National Forest beyond.  The best advice is to park at the “geologic marker” sign at the top of the climb on KY 77 and ride the road to the Job Corps.  By doing that, riding FR 173 out and back, then returning to the parking area and then riding the user created trails out the ridges on both sides of 77 I got in 12+ miles of riding. Almost all of it was decent singletrack or really good doubletrack. 

At the "geologic marker"

For a couple of days leading up to the weekend I wrestled with my depression demons.  I was not enjoying much of anything in life.  When I changed my mind at the last minute from road riding to mountain biking I was already aware that I was in a funk. But that kind of indecision in me is a sure sign of depression.  When I’ve got a free block of time on a Saturday to do whatever I want and can’t decide…that’s not because I’m so excited it all sounds good.  No, that’s me not being able to get my heartrate up even for things I enjoy most.

I’ve found that it’s crucial for me to push through the funk, and I did.  Somewhere around mile eight of my ride I realized the clouds had parted and my mood had definitely improved.  I’m not cured, but the self-medicating through proprioceptive stimulus worked.  Sometimes all it takes is some good old dirt therapy to set me right.  

Shut up!  There's no mountain biking in the Red River Gorge!!!

The District Ranger said I should get some folks together and ride at Tarr Ridge to begin building interest.  I think I’m going to plan a ride sometime before the leaves start coming out.  I’m hopeful that if we work together with the Forest Service that this project could be a huge success and bring the Red River Gorge into the limelight as a mountain biking destination. Twenty miles!

In the meantime I’ve decided that when I’m not working in Bald Rock on the new trails there that Tarr Ridge should just be my go-to mountain bike ride. So far it’s two for two fortifying my soul when I need it most.

I do need to get back on the road bike eventually if I want to have the legs for the Mohican…  

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